BOOK REVIEWS
Coming Home
Revised Edition

Ylva Publishing, Inc.
 

The Rainbow Hub
March 2015

Coming Home is a recently revised edition of Lois Cloarec Hart’s 2001 novel, which offers a poignant twist on the love triangle theme so prevalent in the romance genre. Having never read a novel by Hart, a British Columbia native, I had no idea the journey in store for me when I first dived into the pages of this deeply layered story of three incredible people swept up in a heart wrenching tale of friendship, love, and loss.

The book begins by introducing us to Mrs. Jan Spencer and her beloved but ailing husband Rob – a former fighter pilot for the Canadian Air Force who is now fighting a valiant battle against Multiple Sclerosis. Despite his disability, Rob’s charisma and powerful optimism are potent reminders that life does not end where the loss of mobility begins. Overflowing with an amazing sense of humor and wild stories of his adventurous youth, Rob quickly captures the hearts of all who encounter him. However, the only opinion that truly matters to him is that of his wife Jan. An avid reader and former militant herself, Jan loves little more than her sweet husband and prides in giving him the care she knows he deserves.

When a near-disastrous tumble is remedied by the timely help of local post-woman Terry Sanderson, the course of Jan and Rob’s routine existence is irrevocably altered as they embrace a friendship with the young post-graduate whom Rob dubs his “knight in shining armor”. What starts as a simple bond between the three of them soon grows into something far more as feelings slowly begin to develop between Jan and Terry, leaving the would be lovers anguished and confused as they both struggle not to betray the love and loyalty of the man they both hold so dear. Having been written by a woman going through nearly the same situation, the love these characters feel for one another is tangible…as is the inevitable heartache they each face when the integrity of their friendship becomes ever harder to maintain.

Coming Home is a marvelously authentic portrayal of the joy and hardships attached to finding new love, as well as an excellent exploration of what it means to care for someone with a life-threatening disease. What I loved most about this book was the respect and loyalty Rob is shown, even as his wife begins to experience a strange new attraction for their mutual friend. Furthermore, every character the reader comes across (even minor ones) are remarkably realistic and multi-faceted. We laugh with them, cry with them, and above all come to feel as if these are all real people living real lives, with us merely serving as spectators of their day-to-day existence. Moreover, Hart manages to eloquently stress themes of acceptance and compassion without relying on generic notions of didacticism or losing any of the story’s honesty. The approach different individuals take to their queer loved ones is a genuine glimpse into the various dynamics so often at play in the real world. That alone would make this book a worthwhile read for a person of any orientation, even without its relatable characters and beautifully inspirational narrative.
 
Lesbian Reading Room
March 2014
Terry has recently finished her MA and taken a job as a postal worker. The pay is good, she enjoys the exercise, and more than anything it gives her time to think, time to plan and write her first novel.

While walking her round one day she steps in as a knight in shining armor to help a couple on her route. Rob, an ex fighter pilot struck down by degenerative MS, is helpless on the floor and Jan, his devoted wife, is unable to lift him on her own.

The chance encounter leads to a rapidly developing friendship between the three. Rob is the life and soul of the party; Jan book is a book addict who has literally given up her dreams to support Rob. Terry, her family, and her housemates, soon form a welcome addition to Jan and Rob’s small social circle.

Everything is great – for a while – but fate does not intend to leave these three without a twist and as time goes on they will find themselves in an impossible position. As always in an emotional triangle the challenge will be how to meet everybody’s needs without destroying the very fabric of their friendships.

This is the first book I have read by this author and it certainly won’t be the last. While many of the threads to this tale are familiar, it is delivered with an unusual twist. The story is handled with great sympathy for all the characters involved and the impact of Rob’s disability gives us an interesting insight into the impact a degenerative disease can have on a couple.

The characters are exceedingly well drawn and extremely likeable. The family dynamics make a nice counterpoint to the relationships Terry has with her flat-mates and friends. And the three main characters are ably supported by a wide ranging cast.

Throughout the book we get to know a great deal about the three main players as their back-history is gradually filled in. However I found the lack of introductions slightly disconcerting. The author introduces new characters directly into the plot without giving us any context and then, over time, fills in who they are. Once the new characters had been integrated into the story I found myself becoming increasingly fond of them. But I did find myself, on several occasions, wondering quite who the new people were until we were given some context.

Despite the slightly dark subject matter the story is filled with humour and warmth. These are not easy subjects to write about. Both MS and emotional triangles are painful and can be heavy to handle. But despite the looming loss and crisis Ms Hart has us laughing at the interplay of characters, at the antics of her heroine, and admiring the stoic cheerfulness and upbeat good humor of the tragic hero.

I enjoyed the plot, I enjoyed the complexity of the relationships that developed, I thought the triangle was well handled, and that the book was well written. The growing relationship between Terry and Jan is delicately handled and sweet to watch – Ms Hart is certainly an author I will be happy to read again.
 
MJ Lowe
Midwest Book Review, Sept 2002

Almost 25 years old and just finished with her Masters in English, Terry has taken a job with Canada Post delivering the mail. A job that she hopes will give her the time to think about and write her first novel. One day on her route, Terry is asked to help a woman lift her quadriplegic husband who has fallen. Terry is quite taken by Rob and Jan, and their respective attitudes toward dealing with Rob's advanced MS.

When Terry sees Jan at a local park a few days later, she strikes up a conversation with her. This is the beginning of a special friendship between Terry and Jan as well as Rob. For some 15 years, Terry learns, Jan has been taking care of Rob as his health increasingly declines. Jan's escape and comfort, during these years as a caregiver, are her books. She has a voracious appetite for reading a range of fiction genres. A mutual love of books becomes an important common ground for the two women.

Once an athletic hotshot pilot for the Canadian Air Force, Rob continues to maintain a deceptively lively attitude. A charming extrovert he enjoys the opportunities to socialize with Terry and her family. Rob's point of view is rarely known, although his personal history and tales of his exploits are often provided. This creates an interesting impression of Rob that reflects some of his distancing with life.

Intelligent, kind and generous, Terry can also have a quick temper that sometimes prompts her to speak without thinking. She is perhaps the most rounded character in a well depicted cast. Her point of view is prominent and her interactions with her two roommates and extensive family are followed over the course of almost a year. During that time, Terry comes to realize that her feelings for Jan are not entirely platonic. Meanwhile, Jan begins to acknowledge feelings that she's long ignored regarding her own orientation. Honorable, neither woman will betray their obligations or Rob's trust.

There's a popular saying that experience is what you get when you don't get what you want. Suffice it to say that Terry gets a great deal of experience over the course of "Coming Home" Ordinarily, titles that deal with such a "lovers' triangle" do not appeal to this reader because of the amount of angst involved. Unsurprisingly, "Coming Home" has a great deal of that angst. However, it is also a very touching and well-told story. Hart has populated "Coming Home" with realistic, interesting characters and she provides a loving tribute to persons like Rob who struggle against diseases like MS and the caregivers that give them love, care and a dignified life. Furthermore there are some charming insights to living in Calgary, particularly its lesbian community. If you're in the mood for a good tear jerker, "Coming Home" is worth your while.

 
Blayne Cooper, Author of Cobb Island, Echoes From the Mist, The Last Train Home, Unbreakable, Madam President, First Lady, Castaway, and The Road to Glory

Based on the number of poorly written ones out there, writing a good lovers' triangle is not an easy thing to do. Too often in lesbian fiction authors make the male component of the triangle the scapegoat, the evil-doer keeping his wife or lover from true happiness and her true sexual orientation because of his own selfishness. Real life, however, is not always so black and white. One of the things that makes "Coming Home" so good, the emotion so real, is that the cast is well-rounded and ultimately sympathetic. I found myself rooting for all of them - and in a lovers triangle everyone can't 'win.' The set up is an impressive recipe for angst. Kudos to the author for not skimping or taking the easy way out, for giving us likeable, real characters, and for weaving a tale that's called me back for late night reading sessions again and again.
 
Kathi Isserman
Just About Write - March 2006
Isserman's reviews can also be read at Amazon.com, libertas.com, and The Independent Gay Writer

Coming Home by Lois Cloarec Hart will lift you up and break your heart at the same time. It will make you laugh and cry in the same breath. It is a story that will inspire those that read it.
The author declares in her acknowledgements that Coming Home is a fictional account of the author's life with her husband who was a quadriplegic suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. Rob and Jan Spencer manage his disability until one day they seek out the assistance of their mail carrier, Terry Sanderson, when Rob falls from his wheelchair. From this simple meeting, the three form a bond that carries them through a very emotional and difficult time in all of their lives.

As the story progresses, Jan and Terry fall in love, but their love for Rob keeps them from acting on or even recognizing their feelings. Hart skillfully reveals the ethical dilemma and the hard choices that each character must make. Rob is Jan's best friend, and she is not only his wife but his caregiver. Rob can see how Terry and Jan come alive when they are together even though they do not admit their true feelings. Still, he cannot let go of Jan because she is his lifeline. Terry has fallen for her best friend, but loves Rob too and will not hurt either of them. It seems to be a no-win situation for all involved.

This is where Hart shines as a storyteller. Rather than writing a novel that is filled only with sadness, she balances it with the lightness of humor. The novel focuses on the deep friendships and the unselfishness of each character. The author redefines the meaning of family as the entire Sanderson and Spencer families rally around each other.

Hart's telling of Coming Home reaches deep into our core and takes hold of our hearts. We are drawn into the characters' lives through their extraordinary struggles. We laugh, get angry, and shed tears along with Rob, Jan, and Terry, and we are moved by how they handle the cruelty of the situation with courage.
It is life that we experience when reading Coming Home, and everything that it throws at us. Hart has truly given us a novel that defines the human spirit at its best.

 
 
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